I attended an NG Telecom summit in Hong Kong recently; at the event, I chaired a discussion on how telcos need to improve the customer experience.

Consumers now have powerful mobile devices in their hands, speedy access to social platforms, and the ability to call up information on the go. More importantly, customers today can choose to easily switch to a competitor if they don’t like the customer experience they are receiving. As a result, telcos no longer “own” customers — it’s the other way around.

The discussion participants all agreed that telcos must do the following to meet customer-centric needs:

  • Simplify systems and processes. The debate on how to simplify complex telco business support systems (BSS) to make it easy for customers to consume services is an ongoing one. When BSS cannot provide a single, unified view of the customer, it’s difficult to provide a consistent customer experience. This happens with CRM systems: Call center agents struggle through five or six screens just to get a complete customer profile while irate customers spend time repeating their personal details or waiting for a resolution. Telcos must be like OTT players, which have very complicated businesses, systems, and processes on the back end but present a simple front-end interface to the customer.
  • Let lines of business drive the IT agenda together. Major transformation programs to improve the customer experience are necessary, but technology management shouldn’t drive or own them; the business, and more specifically, the customer experience team, needs to. Transformation programs must balance current customer needs with the business’s future service model as well as with its customer experience ecosystem. A telco’s technology strategy must match its business growth strategy.
  • Drive cultural changes to reflect a customer-centric agenda. All major transformations have a large impact on internal systems, processes, and cultures, and resistance to this kind of change is natural. Telcos must combat this resistance by empowering employees to help drive these changes — from the bottom to the top of the organization and back down. Globe Telecom, for instance, has a “Globe Customer First Circle” program that lets any employee with innovative ideas on improving the customer experience dip into a special fund to bring these changes to life.

Telcos today face tremendous pressure to improve their customer experience to meet customer expectations. The next step is to how to move the needle on the customer experience. We have some suggestions here.